It's summer time again and along with it comes the host of little winged creatures, buzzing around our ears and looking for a nice spot to land. No, it doesn't sound so wonderful, yet somehow neither does the thought of spraying DEET on ourselves and our children's skin. Thankfully, many wonderful natural health alternatives are available -- and the active ingredients in most of these products are essential oils. In fact, some essential oils have been tested in the laboratory to be up to 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. Your own natural formulation is exceptionally easy to make, and that way you'll find the base that suits your skin most. Many folks like using natural carrier oils on their skin, or something then like a witch hazel, rather than the semi-synthetic cream bases most often found. Besides preventing insects from being attracted to you and your children personally, diffusing essential oils is a perfect way to keep mosquitoes and other biting insects from your living space.
The same scent they find distasteful insect repelling lotions can also be diffused into the air. This can also work for flies, gnats and other winged, buzzing creatures. And thankfully most people find they enjoy the scents used for these purposes, especially in the summer time as they are often bright uplifting lemony aromas. First for the topical formulations: These are simply essential oils added to a lotion, oil, or body spray base. You can add essential oils to any commercially available lotion, even sunscreen -- which creates an excellent dual purpose recipe for summer. Aromatherapy carrier oils can be used instead of lotions as many people appreciate their skin-hydrating properties; simply choose the carrier oils that suit your skin type. Finally, a spray can be made using a water and which hazel combination, misting your skin and clothes (without worry of stains), or even in the air around you. Witch hazel is a natural plant extract used as a preservative, and is easily found even in the aisles of your local grocery store. For a spray base, simply mix witch hazel and water at a one-to-three ratio. There are many essential oil formulations considered effective for repelling insects.
The most common used around the world is citronella -- however in light of recent studies, there are likely more effective oils available. A simple blend of thyme, lemongrass lavender and peppermint is described by Valerie Ann Worwood in "The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy": 4 drops thyme linalool, 8 drops lemongrass, 4 drops lavender and 4 drops peppermint. This blend can be added to a lotion or carrier oil base, or the witch hazel formula, at the dilution of four drops per ounce. Geranium and cedar wood essential oils are also very popular ingredients in natural insect repellents, and can work excellently in combination with citronella for a very effective formula. To each ounce of base, add 80 drops of citronella, 15 drops of peppermint, 10 drops of Cedar, seven drops of lemongrass, and two drops of geranium. This is an extra strength recipe that can also be used in a diffuser. A nebuling in diffuser will work best to keep insects from your living space, as it provides the highest concentration of the essential oils in the air. If applying this formula topically to children, dilute the essential oil concentration in half for preteens, and to one quarter for children over two. This recipe is not recommended for the youngest ones, as the peppermint can be too strong. For the youngest children, use a one half percent each concentration of geranium and citronella. For all these recipes, ou may vary the ratios of these oils to suit your nose and to the distaste of the little winged creatures. If you're interested in experimenting, the most potent mosquito repellent essential oil known is that of catnip.
Catnip essential oil was the subject of a study in the 1990s that showed it at least 10 times as powerful as DEET, the active ingredient in many insect repellent products. DEET is found in over-the-counter formulations in concentrations from anywhere between five and 20%; this means you should get the same effectiveness at concentrations between .5 and 2% of catnip essential oil in your base. Because not much is produced, catnip essential oil is still somewhat expensive, but the amounts needed are so low that it will likely offset the cost. Essential oils are also excellent remedies for insect bites once they've occurred. They can reduce both the pain of a sting and the itch of many little bites.
Lavender is most commonly used for this, and it can be applied directly to the skin undiluted. Just tap one drop of lavender essential oil from the bottle and apply with your fingertip. Blue tansy essential oil, also known as Moroccan Chamomile, is also regularly used in aromatherapy for its soothing effects to the skin. For best results, dilute blue tansy to 2% in a carrier oil or lotion and massage onto the affected area. If you are concerned about infection, also include tea tree essential oil at a 5% dilution. While DEET has been in use for many years, it's still a synthetically produced solvent chemical. It's nice to have a natural health options of essential oils for you and your family, and these recipes are so easy to make and use. Many of these essential oils are highly regarded for healing effects in regard to other health issues. Geranium is a well-known anti-fungal agent, and lemongrass is known for its antiviral action. These oils are also used in esoteric aromatherapy as antidepressants -- so while you're keeping the bugs away, you'll likely be putting a smile on your face too.